Lewis Kemp and the Oldest House in Dayton

Lewis and Elizabeth Kemp and their family of eight children moved from Frederick, Maryland to Mad River Township in 1806. Kemp bought 822 acres of land at $10 an acre, and settled on a piece of land that looks out over the modern-day Huffman Prairie. Shortly after their arrival in 1806, Kemp built a brick and limestone house with a stone foundation. A brick addition was added around 1832.

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In 1815, Kemp donated land to Mad River Township, for a school building, which was known as the Kemp School. He stipulated that while he was donating the land, the community was responsible for funding the building. The donor/donation list shows a few notable names:KempSchoolDonation

Also in 1815, Kemp donated a piece of his land to be a burial site, and the land became the first cemetery in Mad River Township. The first burial was John B. Harshman (in 1816 or 1817) though his remains were later relocated to the Harshman graveyard. The last burial in Kemp Cemetery is believed to be in 1837. In 1960, the one-acre cemetery was deeded over to Mad River Township.

In 1978, the Kemp Cemetery became the center of a controversy, as noted in the August 13th, 1978 edition of the Dayton Daily News. The cemetery land is adjacent to the Eastview Recreation Center, and the ERC tried to purchase the land multiple times, unsuccessfully. In response to not obtaining the land, the ERC built a fence around its land, which blocked the township’s access to the cemetery for maintenance and upkeep. Also, patrons of the ERC were allowed to park in the cemetery when the ERC parking was full, thereby disrespecting and desecrating the graves. These issues were resolved with a change in leadership at the Eastview Recreation Center.

The Kemp House is the oldest house in Dayton, and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. The house qualified as a historic place because of the architecture style and that a prominent local figure lived there.

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